Chris Stapleton Higher Album (Unofficial)
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'What Am I Gonna Do' by Chris Stapleton - Lyrics and Meaning

November 17, 2023 3:47 pm GMT
Last Edited December 18, 2023 8:46 pm GMT

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Chris Stapleton - ‘What Am I Gonna Do'

Label: Mercury Nashville

Release Date: November 10th 2023

Album: Higher

Producers: Dave Cobb, Morgane Stapleton & Chris Stapleton

Songwriters: Chris Stapleton & Miranda Lambert

Performers: Chris Stapleton, Morgane Stapleton, J.T. Cure, Derek Mixon, Dave Cobb and Lee Pardini

The Background:

The opener to Stapleton's fifth studio album Higher, 'What Am I Gonna Do' arrived upon the album's release on November 10, 2023 via Mercury Records.

A vulnerable and melancholy introduction to the record, Stapleton co-wrote the song with his CMA Awards 2021-performing partner and fellow country megastar, Miranda Lambert. No strangers to each other‘s ability to wallow in the depths of heartbreak, 'What Am I Gonna Do' reckons with the unknown following the end of a relationship.

The Sound:

Narratively, 'What Am I Gonna Do' may contrast from most of the sexy blues cuts that Chris and Morgane offer across the record, but the 3-minute weeper still finds time for Stapleton to sweat over a guitar solo or two to keep things sensual between the heartbreak.

The shimmering acoustic chords that offer such sadness a foundation to nest are a comforting, hopeful light in amongst the cold indistinguishable consequences of grief. They also act as bait for when Chris and Morgane want to leave a sudden vocal minor chord lingering with extra emphasis for the hook.

The Stapletons are equals in the aching distress of their delivery; a sorrowful sense of finality wraps around each of their intonations despite the distinct unsureness of their lyricism. While there's no better musical partner to Chris than Morgane, if you lose yourself in repeat listens, you could quite easily hear Miranda bawl the lyrics as your own tears stain your cheeks.

Those aforementioned bluesy licks end up offering relieving salvation; the aching pang of the guitar unburdening itself into gentle, floating progressions, letting in tremolos of sunshine through the crack in the window of sorrow.

The Meaning:

It's been said throughout this fifth studio record that it's one of Stapleton and Co.'s most plain-spoken and thematically simple offerings.

'What Am I Gonna Do' being the opener certainly sets the standard for that, with Chris and Miranda keeping things clear-cut and candid.

What am I gonna do
When I get over you
What am I gonna be
When you’re just a memory

In that acute moment at the beginning of a break-up, fears of the unknown can take over your mind. Questions of who you'll become when you lose someone that's become such a vital part of your identity intensify the emotional pain of the heartbreak. Stapleton channels these feelings into his evocative performance, his vocal delivery etched with fear.

Been drinkin’ everything on that shelf
Feels like I’m killin’ myself
You’re gone and it hurts like hell
Wishin’ I was anybody else

The sheer suffering Stapleton is expressing weighs with a doomful sense of non-existence - he's bringing himself physical pain to numb the mental anguish that haunts him, but already sounds deadened by what's happened to him.

Jukebox with a neon glow
Keeps playing “That's The Way Love Goes”

As Stapleton props up the bar, fate is trying to give him what he believes is a sense of clarity on the matter. 'That's The Way Love Goes', a Lefty Frizzell and Sanger D. Shafer song first recorded and taken to No. 1 by Johnny Rodriguez, goes, "At least you mentioned I was worth a few good memories /
And that you never loved like you loved me". Perhaps this is Stapleton and Lambert's way of hinting at closure for their protagonist.

What has Chris Stapleton said about ‘What Am I Gonna Do’?

On Apple's Today's Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen, Stapleton talked about writing the song with Miranda Lambert.

He said; "I don't think people talk about what a great songwriter she is enough. We all know that she's a great singer and entertainer and all those things, but she's a really great country songwriter, and so she and I have written some songs over the years".

"I actually called her when we were making this record" Stapleton continued, "I was like, 'Hey, do you remember that song?' I could only remember half the song and I didn't have a copy... She was kind enough to go looking for it and digging for it, and she found it so we could cut it. That's how it wound up on the record; she was kind enough to dig a little bit".

For the full lyrics to Chris Stapleton's ‘What Am I Gonna Do', see below:

What am I gonna do
When I get over you
What am I gonna be
When you’re just a memory

What am I gonna drink
When I don’t have to think
About what I’m gonna do
Without you

Been drinkin’ everything on that shelf
Feels like I’m killin’ myself
You’re gone and it hurts like hell
Wishin’ I was anybody else

What am I gonna do
When I get over you
What am I gonna be
When you’re just a memory

What am I gonna drink
When I don’t have to think
About what I’m gonna do
Without you

Jukebox with a neon glow
Keeps playing “That's The Way Love Goes”

Time keeps ticking on by so slow
They say it’ll heal ya but I hope it don’t though

What am I gonna do
When I get over you
What am I gonna be
When you’re just a memory

What am I gonna drink
When I don’t have to think
About what I’m gonna do
Without you

For more on Chris Stapleton, see below:

Written by Ross Jones
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